Sunday, November 30

Playing it Forward


MORNING TWILIGHT, MORNING BRIGHT

A quick post, just a sudden passing thought, about studios and work spaces.

Here's a link to a peek into various people's areas of creative play, or their work space. It's called On My Desk, and the blog shows photos of lots of various artists and creative people all around the globe, and where they do their creative efforts.

I love to visit that site from time to time, just to get a look at the interesting ways people set up their tools, equipment and what's important to have around them as they create in their own particular medium.

A few weeks back on Studio Saturday Tari at Claybuttons showed photos of her clay studio at the Art Bead Scene blog, she thinks it's messy but it looks pretty organized to me. I make and clean up twice as much clutter as that in a single effort!

Now if you want to see a colorful makeover of a creative area, check out the posts from Jennifer at Jangles. Her colors pop and show her design sense. I'd never leave a room that looked that good. I'd be afraid to make any messes, either.



What does your creative space look like? Do any of these inspire and excite you?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This morning, here's a photo of what it looks like outside the studio door. It snowed overnight, just a light snow. But so pretty! Just the right weather for setting a mood to decorate the holiday tree later today, with the fireplace going and a mug of hot cocoa.


To set the mood while I'm creating in the studio this morning, I put on some instrumental holiday music and lit the candles in the studio windowsill in front of the stained glass panel.

So cozy and inspiring.

The day will get brighter later and the snow will melt away, but what a pretty image for this morning.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Remember, today is the end of the November Special for free shipping from both Etsy shops - take advantage of the special savings!

Saturday, November 29

Copperplate Writing




Have you come across old documents and noticed the flowery and beautiful handwriting on them, with swirls and ornate capitals?

There is a style of writing I like a lot, it's called Spencerian Copperplate. It uses a very distinctive ink pen, with the nib held at a special angle. It's usually found on historical or formal documents, like court writings or land deeds. Very fancy!

The writing was usually transferred to copper plates for printing purposes, that's why it's called copperplate writing.

I made these little glass and coppertoned ornaments to look like bronze with very decorative and ornate script writing on them. The smaller one has a little pixie face in the middle of a poppy flower. It's a vintage image from an old greeting card from Victorian times.


They could be jewelry focal beads, or holiday ornaments. They would look nice on a gift wrap, as a sort of extra gift. I will be making more of these soon. I like the very antiquated look of them.

They're small and dainty despite their metallic and ancient look.

If you're curious about Spencerian Copperplate script calligraphy, there's a website about it with a lot of information.


Friday, November 28

Very Curious Things


READING MATERIALS - TO INSPIRE AND DELIGHT YOU

I posted earlier about 'A Charming Exchange' - a book I like to revisit often for inspiration.

Here's another book I own and can recommend, 'Altered Curiosities'.

The style and results of the art and sculptures are totally different from my own, but the ideas and instructions are very useful.

The book is by Jane Wynn, a versatile and ingenious person who likes things a little on the dark and spikey side. With some taxidermy, teeth and seamonsters thrown in for fun. Lots of rust and dust, too.

She has a great blog, and a series of workshop - tool - tutorial posts on her blog that are both interesting and a lot of fun to read. Especially check out the older posts for lots of background and tongue-in-cheek fun.

She seems to be continually experimenting, trying new things - and she is not afraid to document both the successes and the not-so-successful results. There are topics and things in her book that I would not think of doing myself, but I can translate the materials and processes to my own creative ideas.

Although I don't see myself usually working in three-dimensional sculptures and shrines like hers, tabletop size, I can picture the spirit and feeling translated into wearable pieces of jewelry. Little personal sculptures.

These two photos are of her fork-box jewelry, with her bezels and encased icons and objects.

So don't be scared off by the cover of the book, with the teeth, the octopus and the dis-embodied figures.

Take a look inside and if you're like me, you'll enter a world of free thinking creativity that will stretch your imagination, inspire and liberate you.

Thursday, November 27

Counting Days, Counting Blessings

See the hand dyed cotton amulet bags with the loving creative hand painted on the front? They are straining at the seams to hold all the special goodies!

All the charms are really fun, special and uniquely suited to each other.

The message of each one is geared to remind of some special thought, event or blessing in life.

I can't wait to start showing them to you. But I have to wait a little longer, to avoid spoiling the surprise!


BUT ... here's a little sneak peek!

Hope your holidays are happy, healthy and hearty ...

Wednesday, November 26

Copper Beeches

COPPER TONES AND TALES OF OLD

There's a Conan Doyle story, one of his Sherlock Holmes series, that I like to read sometimes. It's about a girl who sits with her back to a window, dressed in a certain colored dress that's not her own, acting as a governess. She has a specific coppery color hair, which she is asked to crop short. After considering the money she is offered, she accepts the position.

It's so true to Doyle's time period, writing about the end of the 1890's and the beginning of the 1900's, as things were changing in his country and the world.

Can you imagine a girl hesitating to crop her waist-length hair? Or being willing to sit with her back to a window for an hour during the day, being told funny stories to make her laugh, without wondering what was going on? Or it being a fantastically surprising thing that a young woman knows how to ride a bicycle and does so without an escort, all on her own?

These little pendants were made with that idea in my mind. The lady with the solemn expression. The time-worn looking brooch pendant. All with a dark coppery patina.

I haven't decided whether to make some jewelry of these, or just list the beads and pendants in the ExpeditionD shop for others to create with. They would make nice jewelry, or I can see them as holiday ornaments, looking very vintage and flea-market find special. I just finished them this morning.

To me they look like they just came out of their paper wrappings after being stored carefully away ages ago in an attic trunk.

Tuesday, November 25

Black Pearl Wisdom


Last weekend I opened the dye container with the costume pearls to see the color they had become.

It's a little surprise every time, that's the glory and fun of doing hand dye, whether it's cloth, yarn or pearls.

I wanted a deep, very deep blue-black color. The depth of color comes primarily from how long the faux pearls stay in the dye, just one day for a slight tint, longer for a deeper color.

These have been in the dye for over a week. After a point, they stop absorbing any more color. Cloth is like that, too. Even if you bleach out parts of it, after so much color is applied it can't absorb any more dye.

I like the way these turned out. I need to get more costume pearls and make more this shade, they are a deep, luminous midnight blue-black. The cinnamon stick is there to show scale, color comparison - and for fun!

Sunday, November 23

Strips of Color

Busy winter day in the studio yesterday. Got the new file cabinets down the basement stairs and the new table top on them. It's chilly in the basement. I put some costume pearls into dye to color them a dark midnight blue-black.

Finishing up the packages for the charm / clasp / bead swap yesterday, putting everything in packages and getting ready to send them out. I can't wait for them to arrive, I wish I could snap my fingers and have them at their destinations around the country.

While working on that I cut s
ome hand dyed fabric into strips to be used in jewelry or other decorations. They would be pretty used as part of a holiday ornament decoration.

Also found some of my handmade papers from last summer.

Papermaking is one of those things I have to do outside, it's very messy. The sheets are 8 1/2" x 14", legal sized sheets with a pretty deckle edge. They call it that because the form used to draw the pulp and make the paper on the screen is called a deckle.

I put three sheets of cardstock weight handmade paper in the ExpeditionD shop. I can see making holiday cards, or gift boxes with it. It can be dyed also, but this paper is a heavy weight that was made with recycled paper. The strips of paper still show in the paper, it's fun to see the little letters and bits or strips of the original paper in there.

The deckle edge of the paper is so interesting to look at but sometimes the paper has to be cut to size. It's a heavier weight paper, it would be great for placeholders for the holiday table.

Papermaking is a summertime activity. Too cold to work with all that water and spray in this season, just as it's hard to work with the kiln in mid-summer when it's so hot.

I found a little package of cinnamon sticks. It's a fun reminder of the season, the scent of cinnamon. And one of my favorite colors, that deep coppery reddish hue.

Saturday, November 22

300 Reasons

I've really been enjoying the book 'A Charming Exchange' by Ruth Rae and Kelly Snelling.

Every time I pick it up and glance through it, it inspires me with new ideas.



It started as a charm exchange, there's a blog about that.

And now that the book is out, there's a blog about the book.

Ideas for chains and clasps.

And interesting ways to create charms using found objects and different ways to use wire.


The book isn't a step-by-step book with instructions for every project pictured in it.

There aren't always detailed descriptions for creating each piece or jewelry design in the book, although there are some nice how-to areas with pretty photography.

But if you have any experience with jewelry tools you'll be able to figure out a way to make the designs work for you.

I don't like to exactly reproduce a design, but prefer to let the feeling or texture of the example spark ideas to take me in different directions.

Some metal, glass and fiber. Washers, chandelier crystals.

Some shiny, soft and colorful. Felt beads, reclaimed flatware.

All the results of a collaboration involving a lot of creative and talented people. See the list of them and check them out on the book's blog. Be inspired.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
In other news, the number is 300!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I'm celebrating the 300th sale in the
ExpeditionD shop.

It opened in 2008, on Easter. It's been poised at 297 for some time now, and I couldn't wait for the 300th sale.

It's sometimes hard for me to believe that I've created and listed 300 things in that time, and harder to understand the reality that people have liked and taken the results of my hands, that they have enjoyed them. I get such nice emails and communications, it's heartwarming. It's what keeps me going.

I have new designs on the workbench, I will be putting them in the shop very soon.

Thank you for supporting the Etsy ExpeditionD Shop! Enjoy the free shipping for the month of November.

Friday, November 21

Cloth of Many Colors


I love cotton cloth. It's great to sew with and making sewn and quilted items at the holidays for gift giving is something I enjoy.

In rearranging the workspace and changing out the rooms, I'm setting up a little area for sewing. I had so much fun making the little amulet bags for the charm / bead / clasp swap that I decided it would be nice to have the things I need available.

I ran across some of my hand dyed cotton, cut, pressed and folded as fat quarters.

Odd name, isn't it? Here's the definition:


FAT QUARTER: A quilter's unit of measure from the 44" wide fabric bolt, a yard is cut in half lengthwise then in half widthwise, to create a piece 18" x 22" that allows more creative use than just shearing off a (9" x 44") one-quarter yard of fabric.


Since I'm thinking of some holiday projects to make using hand dyed cotton, I thought some of you might be doing the same. I'm putting a few fat quarters of my hand dyed cotton in the expeditionD shop, and I will add some narrow strips too.

The fat quarters (18" x 22") are a good size if you are making quilt strips or sewing applique. The hand dyed cotton has many beautiful variations in color, sometimes in the same color family and sometimes two or even three colors, as the dyes blend and merge. And because they are dyed together, they seem to magically blend with each other.

The strips will be useful for jewelry or ornaments, to tie as a decoration or use on a necklace for the chain. Wrap wire around the ends to connect to a wire wrap bead chain for a little fiber accent.

So many ideas, so many projects, just not enough time!

Wednesday, November 19

SHARING the WORDS and POETS

Today is a day of sharing words.

Poems. Pictures. Thoughts.

I found out about it through
Catherine Witherell's blog.

I learned more about it at L.K.Ludwig's blog.

If you like meaningful words, beautiful photography and inspiring thoughts.

Take a moment and treat yourself.

This Rumi poem speaks to the things I spend a lot of time thinking about.

Creativity.
Patience.
Beauty.
Craftsmanship
.

Legends and Renegades

This is another in the series on 'Legendary Jewelrymakers' - people who have broken new ground and opened possibilities for expression using personal ornaments as a means to tell a story.

Merrily Tompkins is a groundbreaking artist from the Northwest, a self-described Renegade Artist. She creates on paper, in three dimensions and in jewelry as a wearable art piece with a narrative story.

In an earlier post I wrote about her brother, Don Tompkins, who was also a well-known Northwest jewelry artist. Merrily was born in 1947, fourteen years after her older brother. She studied with him as her teacher in college.

It's difficult to describe Merrily Tompkin's work, there is such variety and a subtle underlying sense of humour. She works in unusual media, including matchsticks, seashells and tree boughs. Sometimes sculptural portraits made larger than life as mosaics, public art that becomes part of the landscape and miniatures that are personal ornamentation.


She creates what she describes as 'Renegade Jewelry' made to be a point of departure toward artistic expression, much less about the talisman in the objects and more about the storytelling aspect.

She was noticed first as an artist for her metal work in the early 1970s, while following the lead of her older brother Don. She took classes from her brother when he was teaching at Central Washington Universary in the 1960s.


Describing her work as multi-media, three-dimensional, figurative, narrative' art, many with moving parts, she believes that the stigma of 'art vs craft' is ebbing due to the emergence of art jewelry.

The pendant in the photo at the right:

"Slow Boat" pendant, (portrait of Ken Cory), 1976, enamel, sterling, wood, copper, brass, painted stone, pencil, lacing, Tiger Balm tin, domino

The mother of three children, she found that raising twins, three boys all together, did sidetrack her artistic productivity for a while.

Working since the early 1970's making object sculputures, metalwork and kinetic jewlery, she has a body of work that was featured at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Bulture in Spokane, WA in the spring of 2008.

Her work was also shown this year in the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution as part of 'Ornament as Art: Avant-Garde Jewelry from the Helen Williams Drutt Collection' from March 14-July 6, 2008.

I'm sorry I wasn't able to attend that exhibit. It included a collection of 275 pieces of jewelry created between 1963 and 2001 that were compiled by Helen Williams Drutt. The Drutt Collection is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Art Houston (MFAH), an international collections of jewelry that redefines the idea of personal decoration.

The collection is currently at the Mint Museum of Craft & Design (Aug. 16, 2008 - Jan. 4, 2009) so check it out if you have an interest and you are lucky enough to be in Charlotte, North Carolina before it ends after the holidays.

Merrily Tompkins is a twice awarded National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, and the exhibit 'Down to the Nitty Gritty' at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture this year was the first museum exhibition of her work in thirty years.

Photo at Left:
"Thank You, Hide" pendant, 1976 - copper, brass, sterling, enamels, wood, leather and found objects 15 1/2 x 5 1/4 x 3/4 in.


There are many things that I find inspiring and interesting about Merrily Tompkins' work, but high on the list for me personally is the freedom she shows in moving from narrative jewelry with found objects to three-dimensional exhibited sculpture. She creates tongue-in-cheek works that have a message, sometimes cultural and sometimes political. But never sentimental.

Tuesday, November 18

Double Word Triple Score

Furniture, boxes and extension cords.

The workbenches and toolcarts I use are all on rollers, industrial casters. In the upstairs room that is now an office, the room only worked when configured one way, because of windows, closet doors and doors to the hallway.

So nothing rolled around much up there in that space, even with the rollers on the furniture.

But in the new basement space, the former office turned studio space, it's just an open rectangular space. I have room to roll.

And while it's liberating to be able to change the arrangement freely, it also makes me have to stop and really consider.

How do I work?


What is my pattern and flow - will some things work while others will slow me down. Am I a straight line arranger or a diagonal - or a mixture of some of each.

The photography space is set up, so I can begin the fun process of photographing the charm swap items before they go out, to show them off in all their creative beauty.

And the computer and internet connection are hooked back up, my resident networking expert did that for me, before going back up to his new office space to hook up his own computer.

I'm enjoying the process of setting up this new work area, and the challenges and little obstacles of freedom it is bringing to my attention.

How do you decide how to arrange your space, do you always have certain tools stored in the drawer by your right side, because you will reach for them there every time? Or do you move from room to room, working wherever you sit down, not needing to do things the same way every time?


These are the interesting questions this workspace change is bringing to my mind today. I think I'll just sleep on it, those boxes will still be there where I left them tomorrow.

Monday, November 17

Every Move I Make

When the relocation to this city happened in 2006, it was a major move and the first six months were in tiny temporary housing, so a lot of things went into storage. The move from temporary housing into the current house was a logistical strategic enterprise coordinating emptying of storage units, retrieving large pieces from warehouse storage and relocation of the things in use at the temporary housing, making sure everthing didn't come at one time and then deciding what went where in the new location.

You wouldn't think so if you knew my history because of more frequent than usual relocations and moves, but I really dislike moving and the whole disruptive process. The only good side of it is the fresh start in the new location, the chance to re-evaluate how things are placed, where things are used in the new situation. Nothing clarifies what needs to stay and what to go than the question of whether to pack and move it or not.

All that being true, this current swap of two rooms in the same house has been very difficult to do. I feel like the tin man -'need oil can' ... stiff and sore. Hubby and I have moved what we can ourselves, swapping out libraries of programming books for jewelry making books. You know how heavy boxes of books are. And it's two flights of stairs for both sets to be moved. My poor knees! His poor back!

I know in the long run, when this is all done and everything is in place and all tidy again it will be a very good arrangement and we both will have an improved place to work and do our particular kind of creating.

But this has reminded me all over again how much I dislike moving. Really, really dislike it! I will just keep putting one box next to the other until it's all done, and look ahead toward the final goal.

Send me some energy vibes! I need extra right now ... and keep the extra-strength tylenol handy. Oh, my aching (fill in the blank with any body part)!

Sunday, November 16

Silver Snow and Moon Glow

Last year I made holiday ornaments using small etched glass designs wrapped around in soldered silver.

The wire hangers that go on them, to attach them to the tree or wreath, were made with floral wire, to keep it from tarnishing and to use a heavy gauge so it won't slump on the tree limb.

I added crystals and mirrored beads as dangles, like snowflakes or icicles.

And sometimes a bright red glass bead dangle, like one holly berry.

Or a silver medallion or charm in the shape of wings and angels. Or very old vintage mother of pearl buttons. Very quaint and old fashioned.

These are the ones I made so far this week. They are a good little size, the square ones like the one above are 1 1/2" tall from top to bottom loops, 1" wide. The rectangular ones like the one on the right are 2 1/2" tall and 1" wide.

I haven't dressed these all up yet, they need lots more beads and crystals. There's a heart, a winged angel, and a crown design. The designs are from vintage woodcuts, very antique old designs that I reproduced by etching them into glass.



I only got these three completed so far this week. I have several more ready to put together.

They look so pretty hanging in the light.

I didn't darken or patina the silver on them, I left them bright and shiny to reflect the sunshine and the holiday tree lights.

I looked out the window very early in the chilly morning the other day and saw that the full moon was setting in the west behind the house. It was so bright the light from it cast a shadow on the floor. These wispy images etched in glass remind me of the moon light shadow shades.

Saturday, November 15

Do Not Adjust Your Sets


I ordered these moo minicards just hoping they would arrive in time for shipping out the swap charms and goodies, and they are here!

They are so small and cute, I love the size. Just half the size of a regular business card.

I'm taking photos today of the charms and the packaging. It looks like it will be next week at the earliest before they will go out, I think the Veteran's Day postal holiday slowed my plans down a bit. I completely forgot about that day with no shipping when I suggested the date.

In the meantime, I'm working on projects and getting out boxes and containers - I'm consolidating Studio A and Studio B into one space! Everything will be together down in the basement studio.
There's a place for the photo setup, and a patio door for lighting.

Hubby's office is moving upstairs to the current Studio A location, we agreed to swap spaces. It gets cold in the deep dark wintertime down in his current office space and he'll be warmer and cozier upstairs.

But lands-o-goshen! It's going to be a big mess packing all these beads and components and equipment - I'd better get started now. When I get settled into the new Studio A-B I'll take some photos, but it will take a while to unpack all these beads and books so it may be a while coming.

In the meantime you can hop over to the Art Bead Scene blog and see the inspiring photos of Jennifer at Jangles' studio! She recently re-did her workspace with lots of color and pizzaz - I don't think I will do quite as much painting as she did, but it looks great. Maybe it'll inspire some of you to look around your working area to see what changes might spruce up your creativity time!

Friday, November 14

Jet Set Jewelry

Lockets have a special facination for me, things with lids that open. Hinges that move, boxes with tops.

Little front covers that swing, revealing hidden compartments with secrets stashed inside.

Tiny book charms with little folded papers, commemorating a special event like the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904. The three-tier watch fob in the photo at the left is a souvenir of the 1904 World's Fair held in St. Louis, where ice cream cones made their debut.

I wear a lot of black, both clothing and jewelry, and I enjoy creating things that match well with black. There are some lovely designs in antique jewelry that are made with black settings, carved black stone and chains.


During part of the Victorian eara in the late 1800's, a style of jewelry came into fashion that interests me. It's called Victorian Jet Jewelry, and while some of it was meant to be worn during mourning, black jewelry was also fashionable at that time and worn for sentiment, carrying a message or symbol as a memento of a loved one.

The photo at the right shows a brooch made of jet, with etched silver on the top of it. It's antique, but it looks very contemporary, even modern. It would be a unique challenge to reproduce some of these designs, adding just a little current flair.

Jet is black semi-precious stone, the black fossilized wood of an ancient tree that grew millions of years ago. It's similar to amber, the fossilized resin of coniferous trees that grew 345 million years ago. Amber washes up on the shores of the Baltic, and is mined in the Dominican republic.

Most jet is from Whitby, England. It's been mined there, on the Yorkshire coast of England, since prehistoric times. Think about the history of civilization and you can't help coming up with uses for amulets and ornaments, even then. Jet stones are usually hand carved to create the beautiful jewelry pieces that were worn in the 1860-1890 period.

Some are religious medallions, some jet jewelry had insets of hand painted porcelain minature portraits at a time before photography.

If you want more information about english carved jet jewelry, there's a good website with lots of photos.

I want to make some beads and charms that look like black victorian style jet, wouldn't something like that be great for the holidays with that very necessary little black dress!

Thursday, November 13

Vineyard Fiber Color Fest



Varigated Fiber Hand Dyed Color Ways



I started out working in fiber years ago, spinning and dyeing yarn, and weaving fabric for clothing.


I sold the looms several years back, to students at the Kansas City Art Institute, and donated a lot of my yarn. But the silk and the hand dye I didn't want to part with.

And the dyes. I still have them, all packaged up. The dyepot got too beat up and had to be retired, but the dyes are still around. I still use them sometimes to dye costume pearls to custom colors.

A knitter still, I make sweaters and scarves for family, knitting is something I can do while traveling and on long car trips. I use a lot of the hand dyed yarns for mitred knitting, sometimes called domino knitting. I can use small amounts of special yarns that way.

Lately I've seen wonderful jewelry designs using fiber and silk ribbons, some looks hand dyed. Deryn Mentock has one of my lovebird beads used that way on her blog, as a tassle with lots of beautiful fibers as the dangly parts of the tassle. Isn't it pretty that way?

I was tidying up the closet with the yarn and knitting supplies and found a bag of loose and leftover ends of yarn. Not quite enough to knit with, but too beautiful to just let go.

So I packaged some of them up with my collaged cards, wrapped two or three yards of four colors on each card, and put them in the shop. I thought some of you might like to use them in your jewelry or collage designs.

The colors are really rich and beautiful - because they were dyed together they are all compatible with each other. Three yards of each color seemed enough to do a project or accent a project. Or to liven up a holiday project, decoration or ornament.


I'm having fun with the designs on 12x12 inch paper I've been painting and pasting. I cut a bunch up into 3.5 x 2.5" sizes, the proper size for an ATC (artist's trading card) - then used the remainders and odd sized pieces for the fiber wrap cards.

Would you like to trade with me? If you make ATC cards and want to do a trade, post a reply or email me. I'm having fun with these and would like to share with some of you talented group!

Tuesday, November 11

Delightful Sneak Peek

Simple Cotton Bags Filled With Wonder and Love

I promised a little sneak peek at the amulet bags I'm making to contain all the goodies from the charm/bead/clasp swap, so here they are! It was a lot of fun to work on them and play with some fiber for a little change of pace in the studio.


This weekend I got out the sewing machine, cleaned off a working area on my table.

It was the perfect excuse to clean up the studio, to make room for my cloth cutting board, rotary tool mat and fabric painting tools. So I moved some tables around, put the glass grinder in a different location for storage along with the box of supplies for the soldering, and did a massive cleaning on the worktable. Boy, did it need it! And it looks so much better! Even though I know it's only temporary, it's great to have a nice clean workspace for a while. And I will try to keep it cleaner, that will be one of my year-end resolutions.

When I had everything all tidy, spic-and-span, I started digging through my stash of hand dyed cotton to find the perfect thing to use to make the amulet bags that the charms for the swap will be sent out snuggled inside.


They're 6 inches across and 5 inches deep - generously sized to hold all the goodies, the cards and things from each person in the swap. I didn't want them all stuffed full and popping at the seams once they're loaded up with wonderful things!

I found some thick quilted cotton that I had dyed and decorated with blues, greens and yellows. And some thin organza with purple and rosey tones.

Both fabrics had been dyed and painted a while ago, washed and dried. So I knew they were all ready to go. When I put the color on the white cotton I didn't know what I would use it for. It's a thick fabric with a double layer that's already quilted when it's woven. I had one long strip of it that I made and saved, and it turned out it was just the right length and width for this project!

I stamped the word 'B-L-E-S-S-I-N-G-S' on the organza, and used fabric paint to add the heart-hand to the front of the bag. On the flap I zig-zag stitched the little word tag to the quilted cotton, and stitched them all closed on the sides. I wanted them to have a folk-art look, with bright and warm colors, but with the shapes of the leaves and ferns on the cotton to have a natural look.

The hand is facing downward from the word 'BLESSINGS' because it is spreading them, not reaching out to snare them - and above the heart shape is stitched a colorful rhinestone star bead. On the back is a blue five-pointed star hand painted on the fabric.

They are a celebration of creativity and the products of the hearts and hands of the swap participants!

Each one is slightly different because the hand-dyed fabric and hand painted images aren't exactly alike, but they are very close so each person in the swap will hopefully like them regardless of which one they receive.

What do you think of the little BLESSINGS bags?

For a while I was keeping a 'Blessings Journal' and jotting down each day something that I heard, or saw or that happened that felt like a good thing, that lifted my spirits. Simple things, like seeing snowflakes in the headlights of the car, or smelling fresh bread baking. So that when I'm feeling blue or weary, I can flip through the pages and find something uplifting, to remind me of all the sweet things around me all the time.

The season that is beginning can be frantic and hectic, even stressful. No matter what your beliefs or rituals, what the end of the year season means to you, it should be a time for blessings and remembrances.

I wanted to do this swap to highlight the blessings around us as Thanksgiving comes this month, a time for family, food and friends. Today is Veteran's Day - another reason to count our blessings!